Citizens Committee on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Diagnosis of Mental Illness

Business man with check boxes.

There are no objective tests in psychiatry ― no X-ray, laboratory, or exam finding that says definitively that someone does or does not have a mental disorder.” “It’s bull—. I mean, you just can’t define it.”

Allen Frances Psychiatrist and former DSM-IV Task Force Chairman

Unlike physical illness, we can’t rely on blood tests, brain scans or other biological tests. As a consequence of this lack of diagnostic accuracy, our field relies purely on observation.” 1

Bernard Baune Professor & Head of Psychiatry at University of Adelaide

There are no laboratory tests, such as blood tests or scans, to determine if you have ADHD.” 2

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists

Virtually anyone at any given time can meet the criteria for bipolar disorder or ADHD. Anyone. And the problem is everyone diagnosed with even one of these ‘illnesses’ triggers the pill dispenser.”

Dr. Stefan Kruszewski, Psychiatrist

Yet, 120 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with mental disorders and placed on psychiatric drugs as ‘treatment.’ In 2014/15, an astounding 3.9 million Australians were on a psychiatric drug.3 And while people are led to believe that a diagnosis of a mental disorder or illness is based on medical science and valid tests, the fact is these diagnoses are simply based on checklists of behaviours. It is well known in psychiatry for different psychiatrists to come up with a different diagnosis for the same patient.

People have also been convinced by psychiatrists, many with conflicts of interest and drug company supported marketing campaigns, that the only solution for treating problems of emotion, mood or behaviour for themselves or their child, is treatment with powerful mind altering drugs. The purpose of the information presented on this page is to provide the public with the real facts about psychiatric diagnosis, mental disorder tests, drug side effects and the many medical alternatives to drugs, so they can make informed, educated decisions. Take control of your health and become empowered through education with unbiased and conflict free information.

Important Note: No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the assistance of a competent medical doctor. The information on this page is not a substitute for medical advice. It is not and should not be considered medical advice. Competent medical advice should always be sought.

1There are no medical or scientific tests that can prove mental disorders are medical conditions.  Psychiatric diagnosis is based solely on opinion.

Medical clipboard.Unlike medical disease, there are no scientific tests to verify the medical existence of any psychiatric disorder. Despite decades of trying to prove that mental disorders are biological brain conditions due to chemical imbalances or genetic factors, psychiatry has failed to prove even one mental disorder is due to a faulty or “chemically imbalanced” brain.

The general public has been lead to believe that a diagnosis of mental disorder is the same as a legitimate medical diagnosis of disease, which is false. This is common knowledge among psychiatrists, but not something they often admit to the public at large, simply because it is the foundation upon which psychiatry is built. The fact is, all mental disorders contained within psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM- the main manual used to diagnose “disorders” in Australia) are arrived upon by psychiatrists literally voting on what is, or is not, considered a mental disorder. Unlike the rest of medicine, mental disorders are arrived at by a political, not medical process. The statements above are not opinion. In the United States, the leading mental health organisation is the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and this is what the head of NIMH stated in 2013:

While DSM has been described as a ‘Bible’ for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary…. The weakness is its lack of validity. Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease [decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart], lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. In the rest of medicine, this would be equivalent to creating diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality of fever.”

Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health

2Yes people experience depression, anxiety and sadness. Children misbehave and have trouble learning and sitting still, and yes, some people can become irrational and/or psychotic.

Angry pre-teen girl with blue eyes.This doesn’t make them ‘diseased’ and there is no evidence of physical/medical abnormality for any psychiatric disorder whether its attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bi-polar disorder, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or schizophrenia. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t solutions for people experiencing difficulties. There are humane, non-harmful medical alternatives that work and allow a person to contribute to their treatment. But they do not require a psychiatric “label” to treat them. There is no mental illness test that has ever been scientifically/medically proven. Even the American Psychiatric Association admits this in the fine print of their own manual of mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A diagnosis from this manual is needed in Australia in some cases to obtain psychiatric drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as well as for some Medicare rebates for psychiatric treatment.

University of Adelaide psychiatry Professor Jon Jureidini has referred to such use of diagnostic labels to explain people’s predicaments as “unexplanations.” 4

Can soldiers returning from war experience extreme and often debilitating stress?  Yes. Is it something wrong with their brain? No. It’s the horrors of war. Can children become distracted and not pay attention? Since time immemorial, yes. But psychiatry has pathologised childhood behaviours into a “mental illness.”

The same is true of mothers. Can a new mother become distraught after a joyous occasion such as the birth of a child? Yes. But is their condition a result of a brain abnormality or mental disease? Science says it is not. Therefore, is the most humane solution to put them on drugs documented by the Australian and international regulatory agencies as causing mania, psychosis, worsening depression, heart attack, stroke or sudden death? Or is it ever acceptable for new or nursing mothers to risk birth defects or damage to their infants as a result of being prescribed such powerful drugs?

Young, stressed man covers his face with hands .A similar situation exists for people diagnosed “schizophrenic.” There is no medical test to verify anyone has a brain abnormality or medical condition of schizophrenia. And while no one claims people can’t become psychotic, the fact remains there is no biological evidence to support schizophrenia as a brain disease or chemical abnormality.

A key question that must be asked is: if people do become psychotic, or irrational, is it in fact caused by some underlying medical (not psychiatric) problem?

Facts show that people who do not take any antipsychotic drugs have a much higher recovery rate. A 15-year multiple follow up study found that there was a 40% recovery for those diagnosed schizophrenic who did not take antipsychotics, versus a 5% rate for those who did take these powerful drugs. For the 40% who recovered without antipsychotics, what happened to their supposed “brain disease?” Did it simply vanish?  Moreover, if they could recover from such a mental state, do they deserve the “stigma” of “schizophrenia” still being part of their permanent medical record for the rest of their lives? Think about it.

Imagine you were extremely obese. You lose all the weight so you are no longer obese.  Yet your medical records continue to say that you are.

Loren Mosher, a psychiatrist and the former Chief of Schizophrenia Research for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) openly stated that there is no biological condition of schizophrenia as a disease or brain malfunction. His 2-year-outcome studies proved that those diagnosed schizophrenic could recover without the use of drugs. One then asks why is this happening and who profits from continued false diagnoses? Psychiatry has patients for life. And the media tells us daily we are simply getting worse.

3Why safe effective medical treatments to mental difficulties are kept buried.

Orange stethoscope and a microscope.The fact is, there are many medical conditions, undetected and untreated, which can appear as `psychiatric’ symptoms when they are not at all. Identify and fix the real problem and the `psychiatric’ condition vanishes. There are multiple non-harmful, non-drug solutions to treating problems of mood, attention, behaviour that do not require a psychiatric diagnosis or psychiatric ‘treatment’ (drugs). They can be effectively treated with standard medical treatment giving back a person their physical and mental well-being.

The larger problem is the fact our governments have been misled by the false psychiatric biological drug model. When the very science behind something is wrong, no amount of money thrown at it will improve the system. The biological drug model is based on unproven and non-scientific mental disorders. The psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars on advertising and lobbying efforts, including the many pharmaceutical company funded “patient’s rights” groups, to counter any medical modality that does not support their biological drug model of mental disorders as a disease. This intense campaign over many years has resulted in a lack of government funding for real medical solutions for people experiencing difficulty.

Australian notes and pills.For those labelled as psychotic or schizophrenic, there have been workable, non-drug programs such as Soteria House www.moshersoteria.com which have not received the recognition they deserved considering their success rate when compared to patients treated with drugs. Why? Billions of dollars in revenue for the psycho/pharma industry would have been lost. This is an industry that time and again, has been proven to put profit above patients’ lives.

4What are psychiatric labels?

Young boy holds ADHD text written on sheet of paper.Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia, ADHD, Social Anxiety Disorder —these are all psychiatric labels. People are being labelled based not on medical tests, but on psychiatric opinion. These labels are problematic for numerous reasons, the first of which is that these labels become part of their permanent medical record which can be used again and again to involuntarily detain a person, remove their children and force psychiatric treatment on the person at home.

Increasing numbers of people realise that just because a child fidgets, or loses pencils or toys—all criteria for an “ADHD” diagnoses, this doesn’t mean a child is mentally ill. In fact many now claim that children diagnosed “ADHD” are really suffering from lead toxicity, or allergies, or poor diet, or lack of reading skills ― not a mental “illness.” The problem is that psychiatrists continue to use psychiatric labels such as “ADHD”, which stigmatises a child as “mentally ill.” If in fact a child suffers from lead toxicity, then why not call it lead toxicity? If he hasn’t been taught to read, why don’t we just say he hasn’t been taught to read?

The same is true of all psychiatric diagnoses—every single psychiatric label stigmatises the person being labelled and as long as we continue to use psychiatric labels (contained within the DSM) to describe behaviours—psychiatry will continue to profit while the public suffers.

This is big, big business, but it isn’t even close to legitimate diagnoses. Not in any medical or scientific context. But in a profit-making context? Yes—coming up with new lists of behaviours and new “disorders” is the bedrock of the multi-billion dollar psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry. It is how they get paid. Remember, no psychiatric label = no drug prescribed. So until we stop using these psychiatric labels, which mean nothing other than what some psychiatrists decided was a mental “illness,” we will never stop the “stigma”. The psychiatric labels are backed by corporate interests—not medicine, and not science.

5Psychiatric drug side effects.

There have been over 290 International Psychiatric Drug Regulatory Warnings, over 60 of those in Australia.

Dangerous side-effects meter.More than 18,500 adverse drug reaction reports (ADRs) for antidepressants have been received by Australia’s drug regulatory agency, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), with more than 360 of those reporting deaths. Over 15,500 ADRs have also been received by the TGA for antipsychotics (including more than 660 deaths). Australian experts say that only between 1 and 10% of all ADRs are reported in Australia, so these numbers represent only a fraction of the side effects being experienced by patients/consumers.5

Anyone can find out the side effects reported to the TGA for psychiatric drugs by generating reports on their website on this link: https://www.tga.gov.au/database-adverse-event-notifications-daen

CCHR has also obtained from the TGA more comprehensive reports prior to the TGA database going on-line. CCHR provides them to the public in the interests of transparency and the basic right everyone has to have all the information about psychiatric drugs so they can make fully informed decisions about any psychiatric drug proposed for themselves or their family.

6Reporting Side Effects

Many consumers are unaware that they can themselves report adverse side effects directly to the TGA. To report an adverse drug reaction to the TGA:

  1. On-line, log onto: https://www.ebs.tga.gov.au/ebs/ADRS/ADRSRepo.nsf
  2. Phone to report to a pharmacist: 1300 134 237; or to speak to the TGA: 1800 044 114

CCHR is organising a petition to help change this situation and ask that the TGA require drug manufacturers to add a prominent boxed advice on the packaging itself informing consumers that they can report adverse side effects directly. Correct reporting of side effects can ensure that relevant warnings are placed on the drugs and can result in needed investigations into drugs with adverse reactions. Please print it off, ask others to sign it and return to CCHR. This is a paper petition, scanned or photocopied petitions are not accepted by Parliament.

7Withdrawal Syndrome

Lots of pills on a blurred background expressing danger of addiction.Withdrawal syndrome is a side effect rarely explained at time of prescribing. It can occur when someone stops a psychiatric drug, decreases the dose or switches from one psychiatric drug to another.

Doing this without proper medical supervision can cause withdrawal syndrome. This is described as worsening of symptoms and/or new symptoms not before experienced. This can be severe in some cases.

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has issued warnings for withdrawal syndrome and it is something known very well about by the psychiatric industry.

For this reason it is very important that no one stops taking a psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent medical doctor.

People do experience emotional or behavioural problems, sometimes severe. But the fact remains the psychiatric diagnosis of their condition is factually not a disease and the treatments (drugs) include serious, even life threatening risks.  Whatever choice people make, they deserve to be presented with all the facts in order to make an informed decision.


References

  1. Bernhard Baune, “Predicting the future course of psychotic illness,” The Conversation, 8 October 2014. http://theconversation.com/predicting-the-future-course-of-psychotic-illness-32423
  2. “Adult ADHD: Guide for the Public”, RANZCP website; https://www.ranzcp.org/Mental-health-advice/guides-for-the-public/Adult-ADHD-Public.aspx
  3. Mental Health Prescriptions 2014-15, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Government, July 2016; https://mhsa.aihw.gov.au/resources/prescriptions/
  4. “Psychiatric labels and kids: benefits, side-effect and confusion,” The Conversation, 25 October 2012.
  5. Therapeutic Goods Administration Database of Adverse Event Notifications (DAEN). Generate reports on-line on their website by drug and add reactions together for each drug. https://www.tga.gov.au/database-adverse-event-notifications-daen